Kerry Washington hosting Saturday Night Live couldn't have come at a better time for the show -- cast members openly criticized the lack of diversity, and civil rights group wrote an open letter to producer Lorne Michaels leading into last night's episode.
So, to say Washington's position as host was important for the show would be an understatement. A massive casting exodus over the last two season left the show vulnerable -- Bill Hader, Fred Armisen and Jason Sudeikis left, following Kristen Wiig and Andy Samberg's departure the previous season. SNL lost its five biggest names over the course of two seasons. So this year was meant to signal a new start, a refresh, with young performers finally grabbing onto the spotlight and new faces filling the holes. So producer Lorne Michaels set out to hire new performers this summer, and many noticed the new performers had one thing in common when their names were announced. On a show that has been historically criticized for its lack of diversity, on a cast dangerously low in color to begin with, the new performers turned out to be five white men and one white woman.
This didn't sit well with current feature performer Jay Pharoah, who let his feelings known during an interview with the Grio. "They need to pay attention," Pharoah said, before suggesting SNL producers hire comedian Darmirra Brunson, "because she’s black first of all, and she’s really talented. She’s amazing." His comments kicked off a fire storm of criticism over the show's lack of color, with many noting there's no black woman in the cast to play the Michelle Obama to Pharoah's Barack. After Rashad Robinson, the executive director of ColorOfChange.org, wrote an open letter criticizing Michaels, the longtime producer told the Associated Press, "It's not like it's not a priority for us. It will happen. I'm sure it will happen."